CIA leak forces Iraq rethink

Roy Eccleston
CIA leak forces Iraq rethink
Fri Nov 14 17:40:02 2003

CIA leak forces Iraq rethink
By Washington correspondent Roy Eccleston
November 15, 2003,5744,7870897%5E2703,00.html

The top-secret CIA report did not remain secret for long. After landing in Washington last weekend, its gloomy message on Iraq was all over US newspapers by Wednesday.

The CIA Baghdad station chief's assessment was that Iraqis had little faith in the US and its appointed Iraqi Governing Council, and saw the US troops not as liberators but as occupiers of their country.

Many Iraqis were supporting the resistance in the belief the US forces would not stay, the CIA chief reported.

The leak of the bleak assessment, dramatically different to the more optimistic tone of President George W. Bush and his officials, explained the sense of urgency that jolted the White House this week.

The US's top man in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, cancelled a meeting with Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller after being summoned to Washington for crisis talks at the White House.

By the time Mr Bremer left a cold and drizzly US capital two days later, the Bush administration had abandoned plans to continue running Iraq for another year and was considering how quickly it might transfer power to the Iraqis.

But this is not the US opting to cut and run in the face of mounting attacks -- it is a partial acceptance of the argument, long pushed by France and Germany, that Iraqis will not try to solve their problems while the country is being run by a US-led occupation force.

Details of the options Washington is considering are being kept secret for Mr Bremer to discuss with the 24-member Iraqi Governing Council.

US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice chortled that media reporting of the plan was "all over the map - and that's just fine".

According to US news reports, the options include anything from appointing a temporary government to run Iraq -- following the Afghan model -- to holding elections early next year, possibly under an interim constitution.

The key drivers of the new policy are clear enough. First, security has deteriorated dreadfully, with a massive change in not just the frequency of attacks on the coalition forces but in their sophistication, scale, targeting and geographic range.

Two US helicopters have been downed by missiles, the UN and Red cross headquarters have been blown up, the Italian police headquarters was devastated, police stations have been destroyed, and roadside bombs, mortar attacks and rocket propelled grenades continue to kill US troops on a daily basis.

By handing authority more quickly to Iraqis, the US hope is that the majority who want a peaceful democratic country will be more willing to turn against the attackers.

The second imperative is the December 15 deadline, under UN Security Council resolution 1511, for the Iraqi Governing Council to draft a timetable for a new constitution and elections.

Trouble is, the constitution has been the subject of immense arguments inside the council over who should draw it up and how long it should take.

The powerful leaders of the Shi'ite majority reportedly want a national election to choose a committee.

But that would take so long, it would delay the handing back of sovereignty, according to US Secretary of State Colin Powell. It might also produce an Islamic state.

All this adds up to another reason why Mr Bush has had to change his policy - which was built on the belief Iraq had to have a constitution before it could have elections. Now the constitution may have to wait.

Another reason for the White House to speed up the handover to Iraqis is that this might allow Mr Bush to withdraw more troops ahead of the 2004 US elections.

The shift on the political front is accompanied by a new military strategy designed to regain the initiative. US warplanes, helicopters and gunships are again carrying out air raids for the first time since the war officially ended on May 1.

But this is not a military battle. Like the Bush move to speed up the handover of political power, the new show of force is a psychological weapon to prove the US is bigger and uglier than the attackers and cannot be cowed.

Searched the web for CIA leak "LEAK-GATE".

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